GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — For the last 10 years, Furman University math professors have been crunching the numbers ahead of March Madness.
“We want to try to pick the ‘Cinderellas,'” said Kevin Hutson, a Professor of Mathematics at Furman University. “Who’s going to upset the favorites in the tournament this year?”
Beginning in January, professors Kevin Hutson, John Harris and Liz Bouzarth analyze data from the top college basketball teams to predict which underdog has the best chance of pulling off an upset.
“You not only get the score of the game, but you get things like steals, rebounds, turnover percentages, all those things,” said Hutson. “We try to rank the teams based on all of those characteristics. Then, we try to figure out which teams look like other teams and then compare them to historical teams that have looked like that as well.”
Added Harris, “We always look at matchups that are between teams that are seeded at least five higher than the other team.”
The professors said this year is much more exciting.
“We’ve been working on it for years but have never had the chance to see what Furman would look like in a bracket since this was the first time they had made the tournament in 43 years,” said Harris. “Of all of the different matchups that we looked at this year, the Furman-Virginia matchup was the one that had the highest probability of an upset.”
Their analysis found Furman had a nearly 40 percent chance of upsetting Virginia on Thursday.
“It’s been really fun this year to see it happen,” said Harris.
The professors said most upsets happen in the first round, but they continue to run the numbers in the later rounds.
“In the second and third round, we try to limit ourselves to just look at matchups that are a difference of five seeds apart so that there’s really a ‘Cinderella’ versus a favorite,” said Hutson.
The professors will be keeping a close eye on Furman as they take on San Diego State University on Saturday. According to Harris, Furman has about a 23 percent chance of upsetting San Diego State University, which is “a typical average probability of what an upset might be at that point.”